We discuss a “Pounds & Inches” procedure from Dr. Simeon in our articles that we approve of. There are also some nutrients we talk about that can help. However, the path to weight gain and weight loss is very plain:
Weight gain is easy: some candy here or juicy hamburger there, a Saturday afternoon in front of the television with chips and, before you know it, 50 new pounds are looking back at you in the mirror. If only traveling the path to weight loss were so easy. Lasting weight loss requires a change of the habits that led to the weight gain – and there’s nothing easy about changing long-time habits. I know several folks who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for years. I have great respect for their determination but it involved a change of lifestyle.
Goodness knows, people try to find “easy” ways to lose weight. Now, there are some nutrients that can help (discussed in our other articles). There is also the “Pounds & Inches”procedure we mentioned that can really help. However, people are always searching for the “magic bullet” that will make the pounds just melt away without any effort. I’m sorry to be the one bearing the bad news, but there is no magic bullet for weight loss without some personal effort and life changes. Instead, you have to decide that you’re going to lose weight, make a plan, and stick to it.
While there might not be any magic bullets for weight loss, there are two magic words: “diet,” and “exercise.” Every part of your plan has to address one of the sides of the equation:
1. Either decreasing the calories you take in or,
2. Increasing the calories you burn.
The Wrong Approach to Dieting
The number-one stumbling block facing people who want to lose weight is that they confuse a diet with their diet. “Going on a diet” implies that one is cutting calories for a while. Then once the goal is achieved (losing 20 pounds for a 40th high school reunion, for example) going back to the old routine. But the old routine will lead to the same old results—higher weight.
Whether the diet is low in carbs or high in submarine sandwiches, whether it comes from South Beach or Scarsdale, they all have one thing in common – they don’t work for most people! Diets fail because they aren’t sustainable in the long run.
I recently ran across an online review of fad diets. The writer listed her 10 favorites, and claimed, “I lost weight on all of them!” I’m sure she did. She even listed her results: four pounds in a week here, three pounds in three days there. I’d bet, though, that at the end she weighed just about as much as she did at the beginning. Her need to try so many indicates that none of them produced long-term results for her. The short-term results more than likely came from the loss of water weight. Most “quick-results” diets involve some component that brings about this type of quick weight loss, so participants can see results right away. Dieting also turns out to be an ineffective strategy for lasting weight loss.
Getting back to the calories-in, calories-out equation, your body burns a certain number of calories by the very processes of life. It take calories to move your diaphragm and chest muscles when you breathe, to hold your body in position, and to generate body heat. The amount of energy you use in these processes is known as your basal metabolic rate, or BMR.
An individual’s BMR tends to decrease with age, which partly explains the slow creep of pounds with advancing years. Your BMR can also adapt to current circumstances. A diet that’s extremely low in calories, for example, makes your body think it’s being starved, so it reducesits BMR. The drop happens very quickly, within the first day or so of a significant drop in calories. Once you increase your intake of calories, your BMR increases as well – but it can take up to 10 days to move up. As a result, you’re putting more weight back on for those 9 days! This is just at the point where you’d want to “lock in” the results of your just-completed diet.
There’s also a controversial “set point” theory, which states that your BMR never returns quite to the high point it was at before (perhaps in anticipation of another coming famine). As a result, every time you cycle through yet another diet, your peak BMR (or set point) gets lower and lower, sabotaging any future efforts to lose weight. (I found it interesting that, even at a higher intake of calories, people generally don’t go on gaining weight forever. Instead, they reach what’s called a “settling point” (not the same as the “set point” I just mentioned).
Weight gain is a result of taking in more energy than you’re expending, as I said above. But a larger body size requires more energy to move about, and the extra bulk uses energy on its own. Eventually, the body gets large enough that, on its own, it’s using up the extra calories.) Instead, the solution is to change your everyday diet in ways that you can live with. And that means adjusting both what you eat and how much of it you eat.
Weight loss comes from a diet and lifestyle you can live with. It’s not too tough. Just cut back on sweets, refined sugar, and other simple carbs such as white bread and pasta, and replace those foods with vegetables and fruit. Eat fewer prepared foods, and more raw food. You don’t have to totally eliminate your favorites, just make them the exception, rather than the rule!
As nutrition pioneer Adelle Davis recommended,
“Eat breakfast like a king,
lunch like a prince,
and dinner like a pauper.”
I do want to say, though, that there are very few absolutes – that is, foods that must be eaten or may not be eaten. Almost any food or drink is fine when consumed in moderation. However, the concept of “moderation” seems to have escaped most people these days. An evening at the pizza parlor with friends is fine once in a while, but calling out for pizza two or three nights a week is a sure path to extra weight.
Taking Active Steps Toward Health
Earlier I said that one of the magic words for weight loss is “exercise.” I do want you to be aware, though, that practically anything counts as exercise if you do it intensely enough for long enough. Walking, swimming, and cycling count, but so do yardwork and dancing. If you’d prefer, you can think of it as “activity” instead.
Exercise not only burns calories, it also builds muscle tissue. And muscle tissue is more metabolically active than any other type of tissue, so it raises your BMR. The benefit from any one session of exercise isn’t necessarily that great, but increasing your activity over time produces benefits that last. One study performed at the University of Pittsburgh showed that women who exercised more than 275 minutes a week (less than 5 hours) were more successful at long-term maintenance of a weight loss of more than 10 percent of their body weight than women who exercised less than that amount. (Arch Intern Med
Moderate-intensity exercise is the equivalent of walking at about 100 steps a minute. If that gets you slightly out of breath, then other activities should get you to feeling about the same way, whether you’re swimming or trimming hedges. Ideally, your exercise program will consist of both aerobic and resistance activities. As you become more aerobicially fit, your capacity for activity of all kinds will increase. You’ll find that it’s easier to cross the parking lot from your car into church, for example. And resistance activity builds muscle directly.
These are lifestyle changes that will produce long term results that stay with you and increase your enjoyment of life.